647 Valencia Street (@ Sycamore) [Map]
Review at the Owl Mag
For music-loving teenagers, forming a band with friends is a rite of passage. Most of these bands never get much farther than friends' birthday parties or the high school auditorium stage, but every once in a while something unusually good emerges from the world of lockers, lunch money, and late slips—and I'm not talking about Hanson. While so many teenagers are wrapped up in the self-loathing world of emo, the Bay Area's Audiophiles have a much more lighthearted outlook on being kids. They also happen to be great musicians making some great indie rock, and not just for a bunch of teenagers. They're better than a majority of the local bands I've been subjected to lately.
Unfortunately, the 21-and-over Elbo Room is not the best venue for a group of teenagers. I heard the bouncers talking about them as I locked up my bike outside: "They either have to stay backstage or outside. They're not allowed anywhere else, there's nothing we can do." Not only were they prohibited from watching the bands after them, they also had to perform with big X's scrawled on the backs of their hands in black marker. Hopefully the audience realized that they don't associate with the "straight edge" movement, they're just minors.
Their not-yet-legal status adds to their charm, though, much like pre-teen girl duo Smoosh. (Let's face it: if the Smoosh girls weren't so young nobody would care about them.) Between the back-to-back guitar jam, a crotch-grab fakeout, the bassist's tight pants, and the drummer's sunglasses, they are a little awkward but they are far from pretentious. Frontman Greg Fleischut's voice may sound a like a young and innocent Stephen Malkmus but you'd be hard-pressed to find evidence of a massive Malkmus-like ego. Coming from a genuinely optimistic place, their lyrics remind you that being a teenager sucked—but it wasn't the worst thing in the world. It was a time of discovery, experimentation, and exploration that can be awful one minute and fantastic the next.
Their stage presence is on the silly side but their musicianship is impressive. While their sound is at times a schizophrenic mishmash of influences ranging from proto-punk to post-rock to 90s alternative rock, they write catchy hooks ("Beautiful as You" and "Dance Wit Me" stand out) and complex compositions. Their talent comes through loud and clear even though they are still a little rough around the edges.
The best thing about the Audiophiles is that these kids don't take themselves too seriously and really have fun making good music. Hell, they even make the occasional reference to hyphy. Their pleas for the audience to get up and dance were ignored until a couple of rowdy drunk ladies found their way upstairs and proceeded to hoochie dance, but throughout the show, everyone in the place was bopping their heads or tapping their feet. Whether they survive the tide of adolescent angst and stay together long enough to be signed by a label remains to be seen, but right now they are my Bay Area band to watch.